Remembering Illinois heroes: 'Field of the Fallen' tribute unveiled in Cary for Memorial Day Weekend

In northwest suburban Cary, a local nonprofit organization is honoring service members from Illinois who made the ultimate sacrifice.

This Memorial Day weekend, the public is invited to visit the ‘Field of the Fallen,’ which officially opened Friday evening during a special ceremony.

For the past 14 years, the Veterans Network Committee of Northern Illinois has fulfilled the promise of keeping the names of the brave men and women who died for our country alive. 

This year, 353 flags are displayed on the field, located in the 3300 block of Three Oaks Road.

"The unique part about this display is that each flag has a tag," said Doug Katz, vice president of the Veterans Network Committee of Northern Illinois.

Each tag holds the story of a soldier who never returned home. It includes the honoree’s name, their hometown, the military branch in which they served, and their date of death.

Katz, who is a U.S. Army veteran, said the display is inspired by the nonprofit's mission: "About service members not dying their two deaths, the death on the battlefield and the death of being forgotten."

Beginning with the Persian Gulf War in 1990 until the present, the Field of the Fallen honors every service member from Illinois who gave their lives for our freedom. 

"Just setting them up and getting the names on them affects me. I lost a buddy in ‘Nam, and that’s affected me for a long time," said Butch Kribbs, a board member of the Veterans Network Committee of Northern Illinois.

The field is guarded around the clock by a veteran standing watch, and each hour on the hour the names of 10 soldiers are read.

"It’s not uncommon for family members who might have fallen service members to visit this because they may be buried somewhere like Arlington, where they can’t, so this is a chance for them to connect with those people," said Katz.

For the first time, the Field of the Fallen will feature a section dedicated to service members who took their own lives as a result of PTSD. The organization hopes to raise awareness about resources for veterans who are struggling to cope with the trauma they’ve experienced during or after service.

The Field of the Fallen is free to attend and will remain open 24/7 until 5 p.m. on Monday.

The touching display is an important reminder – to remember the fallen and to honor the living.

"I really hope that it speaks to more than acknowledging people’s service with a ‘thank you,’ and that action is really what it’s about," said Katz. "I hope that they walk away saying, ‘We can always do more for our veterans.’"

To learn more about how to support the Veterans Network Committee of Northern Illinois – through volunteer work or a donation – click here.